After more than a year of challenges, more than a dozen districts this week are finding ways to celebrate the graduating class of 2021.
The "Red Zone" at State Farm Stadium, taking on more of a purple hue Monday as seniors from Sunrise Mountain High School capped off an unprecedented school year. It was the second of seven ceremonies for the Peoria Unified School District scheduled throughout this week.
"There were a lot of questions this school year and one of the questions was would there even be a graduation?" said Michael Robbins, senior and student body president for Sunrise Mountain. "I'm very excited to be here today."
The pomp and circumstance were still there but the setup, a stark reminder of the pandemic. The chairs all spaced six feet apart, limited capacity for guests, temperature checks, extra cleaning measures and masks are still required.
"It's been a really tough year," said Dr. Jason Reynolds, superintendent of the Peoria Unified School District. "It's perseverance, and hard work, I mean they have remained committed to doing everything we've asked them to."
Peoria Unified is one of several districts hosting graduations at State Farm Stadium. Agua Fria Union High School District held its ceremonies there on Saturday, May 15.
Other districts holding events this week include Phoenix Union High School District, which is hosting four days of ceremonies at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Buckeye Union High School District will take over Goodyear Ballpark Wednesday through Friday.
Arizona's largest school district, Mesa Public Schools, will hold their graduations on Thursday.
"It's very exciting for all of us, much more so than I think it would've been a couple of years ago," said Robbins.
Plans are still in the works for next school year, but several districts have already said masks will be optional. Still, Robbins says he just may have to hold on to his.
"It's representative of the whole high school experience that I had, so I think I have to keep it," said Robbins.